Saturday, June 7, 2014

2014 Movies: My expectations are mostly met and in one instance, surpassed

Party Monster (2003) Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato

An ugly movie about an ugly murder. I think Tessa was telling me that this was shot back when people just started fucking around with digital, unsure of how to use it correctly and effectively? I kind of hated this movie, and I think most of that is based on just how ugly it looks and how it's mostly incoherent, but not in a stylish way? Seth Green and Macaulay Culkin made some odd choices in their performances too. It seemed like they were trying to do something campy with their performances and voices, but they just missed the mark. Camp is a difficult thing to achieve because even being a little bit off tips you into the realm of the unfunny or self-serious that camp works so hard to undermine. I guess it was wrong of me to think that a movie about a grisly murder starring Seth Green and Macaulay Culkin would be at least something to see and experience, but I'll go ahead and file this under "Mistakes, Understandable."

Pain and Gain (2013) Michael Bay

Oh man, I was not prepared to enjoy this movie as much as I did. For a man who's crafted an oeuvre rooted almost entirely in coked out, over the top action movies, Pain and Gain is the coked out-est of them all, a true opus in cocaine twitch-directed movies. Bay looks like he's trying to pull off a Michael Mann-style Miami crime movie, except the movie centers around three big guys with more guts and ambition than brains, an idiotic and short-sighted plan, and the movie is directed by Michael Bay. AND IT WORKS! Every performance is so strong and funny. I love Wahlberg whenever he's playing a meat head with a dream, The "Dwayne Johnson" Rock is like a very funny mountain, and Anthony Mackie has this completely different kind of weird funny that seems rooted in being completely ignorant of personal boundaries and social cues. Subtlety is not an essential tool in a movie of this sort, so Bay doesn't even really try to pretend. It felt like the full movie version of one of those heavy-handed "satirical" movie posters you'd find in a Grand Theft Auto game. As the plot moves on, you just get caught up in what's gonna happen next with these idiots, and you're nodding along to this message of working hard and taking what's yours (it's a lot like a more enjoyable The Wolf of Wall Street in that sense), but then the movie takes this pretty dark turn and you're questioning whether you should feel guilty about enjoying yourself so much for the past hour or so. The real-life story of these guys is awful and horrifying, but Bay et al push it into an over-the-top comedy that gives you that option to tell yourself that much of this story on screen is exaggeration so you don't have to feel awful about rooting for these murderous idiots.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) Bryan Singer

My expectation for this movie was that this was at best an entertaining clusterfuck that I wouldn't mind, but I think I left feeling like it was a clusterfuck that I ended up liking enough. It was a very "X-Men" movie, and by that I mean out of all the X-Men movies, I feel like this one was the closest in capturing the feel of reading an X-Men comic. I don't mean like faithfulness to the source material or anything so bland, I mean that feeling you get when you're reading X-Men comics. It was exciting and fun and goofy and something to get lost in, and there are points where the storytelling is just kind of sloppy and it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and it feels like half of the film is somebody explaining what's going on to somebody else, but you've happily resigned yourself to rolling with it and having a good time, wondering how it's all going to end. It was fun. It had problems, sure. But who cares about problems in an X-Men movie anymore?

The Purge (2013) James DeMonaco

Not a great one, but definitely not as bad as I was expecting. I feel like it would've made a pretty cool episode of The Twilight Zone. The problem is that it's a feature-length movie and it sort of runs out of steam, but there is definitely a good hour-ish stretch where it's pretty suspenseful and scary. I don't know, man. I guess there's something to be said about a movie that manages to stay compelling for any stretch of time even after they introduce that stupid baby doll surveillance camera on wheels as a major plot element, but the problem is that this is also a movie that has a stupid baby doll surveillance camera on wheels as a major plot element instead of giving us the near-future race/class war that the expository news pundits propose to us in the beginning of the movie.

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